ASIA/PHILIPPINES - The Bishops: no weapons for priests

Tuesday, 19 June 2018 human rights   priests   violence   local churches  

Manila (Agenzia Fides) - A priest is a "Good Shepherd", ready to give his life for his flock; he is a gentle, peaceful and non-violent man. For this reason, despite the killing of three priests in the last six months, they must not possess or carry weapons, to be used in self-defense: say leading Church figures in the Philippines who have expressed dismay and anger at reports that Catholic priests are arming themselves following the slaying of several members of the clergy in recent months.
The Archbishop of Davao, Romulo Valles, president of the Episcopal Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), has officially rejected the idea of priests arming themselves.
"We are men of God, men of the church, and it is part of our ministry to face dangers, to face deaths if one may say that way", he said.
Even the vice president of the Episcopal Conference, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, of the diocese of Kalookan, rejected the idea that priests may carry firearms, even if only for self-defense.
"Priests who want to carry a gun for protection should leave the priesthood and join the police or military", said Bishop David, who said he was "disappointed".
As Fides learns, at least four priests from the diocese of San Pablo, in the southern province of Laguna, have begun to arm themselves for self-defense.
Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde, said that "priests, as citizens of the country, could arm themselves for self-protection - constitutionally enshrined right - as long as they acquired guns and permits legally. There will be a feeling of added security on their part if they have firearms, legally licensed", he said
Jerome Secillano, Executive Secretary of the public affairs committee of the bishops' conference, reiterated the Church's position according to whom priests and pastoral workers must not be armed.
The Filipino priests killed in recent months are: Father Richmond Nilo, 44, who was shot dead as he was preparing for a Mass on 10 June in the city of Zaragoza, in the province of Nueva Ecija; Fr. Mark Ventura, 37, was shot dead after celebrating Mass in the city of Gattaran, Cagayan province, on April 29; Fr. Marcelito Paez, 72, was killed on 5 December 2017 in Jaen, Nueva Ecija. The only priest who was wounded is Fr. Rey Urmeneta, 64, former police chaplain, shot last June 6 in the city of Calamba, south of Manila. (SD) (Agenzia Fides, 19/6/2018)